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Britain: Vestas workers end occupation, but `the campaign is anything but over'

Mike Bradley was one of the original workers who occupied the offices of Vestas. He gave an impassioned speech at the August 8 rally in Newport, Isle of Wight, where he reminded supporters that the struggle for Vestas to be nationalised can still be won. Video from Ventnor Blog.

[For more background information, go to http://links.org.au/node/1168 and http://links.org.au/node/1175.]

August 7, 2009 -- http://savevestas.wordpress.com -- The Vestas workers' occupation of the Newport [Isle of Wight wind turbine] plant occupation may be over, but the campaign is very definitely not. In fact, ... “it’s just getting going”!

Vestas’ doings will still be disrupted as they go about attempting to ``tie up'' business on the Isle of Wight. Workers, activists and locals remain wholly committed, in ever-growing numbers, to the campaign to save the green-collar jobs in Newport and Southampton.

Europe-wide, Vestas is feeling the blast of public dissent over this factory closure. It is being forced to understand that wider issues are at stake here than simply ``job cuts'': this economic meltdown coincides with the beginnings worldwide of devastating climate change – capitalism’s self-inflicted carnage – fatal not only to bats but human beings in their millions.

Inaction, which our leaders attempt to attribute to the imperfections of the market and the industrial planning system we have nationally, is not acceptable to anyone with an interest in the world.

Photo by David Smith/savevestas.wordpress.com. More pictures of the occupation's end HERE.

Vestas workers' march shows the fight for jobs goes on

By Sian Ruddick, Newport, Isle of Wight

August 8, 2009 -- Socialist Worker (UK) -- More than 250 workers, supporters and activists gathered in St Thomas's Square in Newport, the Isle of Wight, today to show Vestas management and the government that their campaign for jobs and justice for Vestas workers is far from over. The rally was led by Vestas workers who had occupied the factory for two and a half weeks in protest at the closure of their factory and the loss of 600 jobs. They ended their occupation yesterday.

Mike, one of the workers, told the rally, “We have shown that ordinary people can stand up and make a difference. I'm not an eco-warrior. I'm just a normal guy standing up for my family and for the island's economy.

“The closure doesn't just affect us, it affects the whole island. That's why it's so important for us to stay organised. We nee to put pressure on the government and on the council of the Isle of Wight to save these jobs.”

Many Vestas workers spoke at the rally and thanked people for their support. Mark Smith told the crowd, “Don't allow yourselves to be bullied by management. We've shown that, even if they try to stop you from organising, you still can.”

Workers from different unions joined the march to back the Vestas workers, including from the GMB, Unison and RMT, as well as environmental campaigners.

Jonathan Neale from the Campaign Against Climate Change said, “All over the country people are facing a similar situation and this struggle has been an inspiration to them. The national day of action on Wednesday needs to be just that – a national one. We need to see, in towns and cities all over the country, solidarity action with the Vestas workers.”

People marched out of the square and, instead of taking the usual route of previous demonstrations, they marched onto the dual carriageway and took over a lane, chanting, “What do we want? Nationalisation! When do we want it? Now!” Passing cars honked their horns in support.

[Listen to an account of the August 8 march by a Vestas worker at Ventnor Blog HERE or below]

 

Justin, a Vestas worker, said, “The government has to start listening. There's been plenty of talk but what we need now is action.”

As the march came towards the industrial estate where the Vestas factory sits, workers led the demonstrators round the back of the Vestas factory and onto the site. People marched to the front of the factory, which had been out of bounds because of a fence, and held a temporary sit-in in front of the doors. They demanded that the manager come out and address the workers.

There is a meeting for all workers on the Isle of Wight tomorrow evening to discuss the next stages of the campaign and to build for the national day of action on Wednesday.

 

Tears and cheers for Vestas heroes

By Paul Haste

August 7, 2009 -- Morning Star -- Vestas workers ended their 18-day occupation of Britain’s last remaining wind turbine factory on August 6, declaring their fight to be “just the start” of a mass campaign for green jobs.

The last six workers to leave the occupied plant were given a heroes’ reception by the hundreds of local residents and supporters who gathered outside the factory near Newport on the Isle of Wight after the company’s private security force enforced a court ruling to end the protest.

One of the workers, Jamie Rigby, left the factory on his own terms, jumping 30 feet from a balcony draped with a banner declaring the workers’ defiant message to his bosses: “Vestas, this is only the start — you will lose.”

Another of the occupiers, Ian Terry, abseiled down the factory wall and insisted that the workers’ fight against the company closing down the plant and tearing up the livelihoods of 625 people was “worth all of the sacrifices”. “I would definitely do it all again. If anyone’s got a spare factory going, let me know because I’ll come and occupy it”, he said.

But as the occupation at Newport came to an end, protesters at a roof top demonstration at a second Vestas site in nearby Cowes vowed to “continue for as long as the workers want us to”.

The fight against Vestas began July 20 when the multinational wind turbine firm — despite increasing its profits by 70 per cent in just the first three months of this year and awarding 13 of its directors a huge £9 million in bonuses — announced the mass sackings.

Vestas RMT union representatives Mike Godley and Sean McDonagh were joined by the union’s leaders Bob Crow and John Leach as they met Minister for the Department of Energy and Climate Change Joan Ruddock just before the court order against the occupation was awarded.

Godley related that Ruddock had said that she was fully supportive that those who took part in the occupation should not lose their redundancy pay as the company had threatened. “She said that no workers should be discriminated against for standing up for their jobs”, Mr Godley said. “And she also said: ‘Vestas might have abandoned the island, but the government won’t’”, he added.

RMT revealed that ministers had earlier tried to offer Vestas cash to refit the factory and had even raised the possibility of a government “takeover” but that the company had refused. Godley suggested that the refusal meant that Vestas “intends to keep hold of the factory to start up production again when they consider it will be profitable”.

But RMT general secretary Crow stressed that, if that was the case, then there should be an immediate investigation into the company’s activities. “It appears from the meeting with the minister that Vestas kicked the legs from under a perfewctly viable rescue deal which could have saved the factory”, he said.

Crow praised the workers for their stand, asserting that “everyone involved in the Vestas occupation can hold their heads up high and be proud of the brave fight they have put up for green jobs. They have turned a local fight over a factory closure on the Isle of Wight into a global battle for the future of manufacturing in the renewable energy sector and that is an extraordinary achievement.”

 

Ventnor Blog's video compilation of the occupation's end

August 7, 2009 -- Ventnor Blog -- Have fun (click on each picture to watch the video).

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